Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," the year's most hotly anticipated psychological thriller set in the world of ballet, opened the Venice Film Festival last night. While not everyone loved it it, a sampling of the reviews, even the less-than-fawning ones, has confirmed that this one is not to be missed.
"Black Swan," stars Natalie Portman as an up-and-coming ballet dancer seeking the lead in "Swan Lake," but finds herself in a competition with a rival dancer played by Mila Kunis, for the attention -- both on and off stage -- of the ballet director played by Vincent Cassel.
Watching the trailer, the film seem to be part a "Red Shoes," part "Fight Club," and part "Single White Female," with, let's be honest, a dash of "Showgirls." But enough jibba-jabba from someone stuck in midtown Manhattan, let's see what the folks lucky enough to have viewed the film in Venice have to say.
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As a sensory experience for the eyes and ears, “Black Swan” provides bountiful stimulation. Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique choreograph the camera in beautiful counterpoint to Portman’s dance moves... But when the script by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz, based on the latter’s story, struggles to carve out a real-world parallel to the life-and-death struggle depicted in the dance story, it goes over the top in something approaching grand guignol fashion.
"Swan" is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what's so good about it. You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible... but the horror-movie nonsense drags everything down the rabbit hole of preposterousness.
while “Black Swan” may reveal itself as a fairy tale, that’s only after it has successfully masqueraded as a taut, witty and wickedly kinky thriller that pulls off the tricky double-bluff of following precisely the narrative course one has mapped out for it, yet emerging as all the more surprising for that adherence... There will, I suspect, be those left cold by the film’s more mannered instincts, or those who feel it’s a genre-film concession too far for the director. Either way, however, “Black Swan” cements Aronofsky’s place as one of the biggest and most unruly thinkers working in the only notionally small aesthetic of American independent cinema.
"Black Swan" opens Dec. 1. Color us stoked